#14 Virginia Commonwealth University looks to win its 12th-straight game when the Rams return home on Tuesday to host George Washington.
- What: #VCU (16-3, 6-0) vs. George Washington (16-4, 6-1)
- Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center
- When: Tuesday, January 27th at 7:00 PM
- Watch: CBS SportsNetwork
- Listen: Rams Radio
VCU returns home from a three-game road stretch boasting a 16-3 record, 6-0 conference record, and 11-game winning streak. The Colonials are nipping at the Rams’ hooves and a win on Tuesday would pull VCU down into a three-way tie with Dayton and George Washington. VCU, who won all three road games by single-digits including a game winner on Saturday, needs to take care of business at home if HAVOC! hopes to keep pace in the pursuit of Coach Smart’s first conference title.
For the third season in a row, the VCU-GW matchup is an important measuring stick of the progress of one of the A-10’s rising stars and one of the A-10’s marquee teams. Two seasons ago, the young Colonials buckled under the pressure in a rout at the Siegel Center. Last season, GW answered the call in a 76-66 home victory over the Rams heard round the league, but VCU crushed the Colonials 92-75 in the Siegel Center and 74-55 in Brooklyn despite the injury of Melvin Johnson.
The Colonials boast a gaudy record, all of their non-conference losses are understandable, and they beat Wichita State, but doubts persist. They have one quality conference win (2OT vs. Richmond) and they’ve played the weakest conference schedule in the A-10. Tuesday kicks off a seven-game stretch that includes games at VCU, at Rhode Island, vs. Dayton, vs. VCU, vs. Davidson, and at Richmond. If George Washington is real and ready to win an A-10 title, then Tuesday is an invaluable game that will send a message around the league.
The motor behind GW’s rapid rise is consistency. The Colonials core of juniors Kethan Savage, Joe McDonald, Patricio Garino, and Kevin Larsen has played thousands of minutes together and GW has started only one lineup all season. Offensively and defensively, all four players have a level of comfort and synergy that can’t be manufactured without time.
Defense is where the Colonials excel. They play mostly man defense but they’ll pepper in a 1-3-1 zone on occasion. Last season, VCU looked lost against the zone. GW rarely fouls and they are one of the best rebounding teams in the league, but they have struggled to defend the 3-point line.
George Washington’s offense was transformed last season by the addition of Indiana transfer Maurice Creek (80-200 3PFG). His departure leaves a dearth of 3-point shooting. The Colonials have combined for 93 3-pointers, only two more than Melvin Johnson and Treveon Graham combined. VCU has 172 3-pointers this season. Furthermore, Nick Griffin leads the team with 18 3-pointers (VCU has five players with 17+ 3-pointers) but he’s only played 22% of minutes which means the Colonials don’t constantly have dependable shooters that can space the floor at multiple positions.
George Washington is one of the best teams in the league and they will likely be the favorites to win the conference next year, but the Colonials are probably one year away from escaping the second-tier of the Atlantic 10.
THE STAR: #13 Patricio Garino
13.6 PPG (88-149 2PFG, 8-30 3PFG), 5.4 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1 BPG, 2 SPG, 2.3 TOPG
Garino will forever be remembered for his 25 point, seven rebound, three steal performance in GW’s 76-66 win over VCU last season. He’s 6-foot-6 but has the speed to guard on the perimeter, and he’s a defensive menace when the Colonials use their 1-3-1 zone.
Born in Argentina, his offensive game has developed and he boasts many classic “European” moves. He was named to the A-10 defensive team and A-10 third team last season and is well on his way to repeating the honors.
Joe McDonald (PG, Junior) • Since posting 8 turnovers against HAVOC! as a freshman, McDonald has settled down and been effective against the Rams. The Rams’ pressure has taken a step back over the past few weeks, making McDonald uncomfortable needs to be a point of emphasis on Tuesday.
Kethan Savage (G, Junior) • Savage missed the last 15 games of last season with a broken bone in his left foot. With him, GW dominated VCU. Without him, the Rams topped the Colonials twice by 36 combined points. His ability to drive and shoot is invaluable in the Colonials’ less than perfect offense.
Kevin Larsen (F/C, Junior) • The 6-foot-10 center was voted most-improved player in the A-10 last season. He’s the best back-to-the-basket-big man in the league and he’s a superb defender.
John Kopriva (F, Senior) • He’s certainly not Isiah Armwood, but the senior is experienced and knowledgable. He’ll go unnoticed, but that’s not always a bad thing because he simply gets the job done.
Yuta Watanabe (F, Freshman) • He provides invaluable offense off of the bench that is essential for a team that struggles to score even with its starters. He’s the fourth Japanese-born player in Division I men’s basketball.
KenPom picks VCU to win 70-62 with an 80% chance of victory.
GEORGE WASHINGTON PROFILE
- Location: Washington D.C.
- Enrollment: 25,500
- Conference: A-10
- All-time Series VCU leads 7-1
- Last Meeting 3/15/2014. VCU won 74-55.